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Urban-Think Tank

Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) is an interdisciplinary design studio dedicated to high-level research and design at a variety of scales. The studio champions collaborative work with intended users as a tool to develop spaces and projects that reinterpret the potential of unbuilt areas.

Alfredo Brillembourg founded the Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) collective in 1998 as an informal multi-disciplinary research group in his home in Altamira, Caracas. In 2001, Brillembourg invited Hubert Klumpner to co-found the U-TT NGO and later in 2007 to co-founded the U-TT company in Caracas, Venezuela. Brillembourg and Klumpner continued their partnership in Zürich until 2019. 

Now that cities have been established and developed, U-TT argues that it is time to depart from outdated, urban-centric, nineteenth and twentieth-century architectural models. Instead, the current focus of architecture should be using design to improve unbuilt environments. For example, in the twentieth century, organizing low-­income neighborhoods in vertical towers proved to be a general failure. Thus, U-TT has prompted an exploration into using the vertical to address dense slum conditions and urban neighborhoods. 

To residents of New York or Tokyo, the notion of building vertically is a familiar concept. However, in many slums/barrios/favelas around the world, builders lack the heavy equipment or capital to build vertically. U-TT approaches the use of verticality in a new light; residents are the organizers of their own space, and these spaces remain open to constant modification. By using new approaches to incorporate verticality into the redevelopment of unbuilt environments, it has the potential to become a tool for the community to create new spaces and open areas for new businesses, recreational facilities, and more.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, U-TT created an alternative teaching platform, called “Dis_Local. The work is driven by the idea that good products and processes will only arise when the discourse that births them consists of both words and actions. 

In the past couple of years, U-TT has started to adapt to the new conditions post-COVID and to refocus on building a global practice, beginning with development projects in South America and expanding to South Africa, Uganda, Columbia, the USA, and Norway. 

We had the chance to have an amazing two ­part discussion with Alfredo and Hubert on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episodes below.

29 | The New Informal City Part 1
30 | The New Informal City Part 2


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Venezuelan Nights" by Earl Klugh from his album "The Spice of Life."